Natas Kaupas – Grew up in South Santa Monica, California in the area known as Dogtown and is of Lithuanian descent. He attended Santa Monica High School. He is often referred to as one of the first true professional street skateboarders.
NATAS below, 1987 Streets Of Fire – I remember this was my second skate video ever watched.
As Kaupas began to hone his skills on the streets of Santa Monica others took notice. Kaupas by his own admission remained clueless or uninterested in the skateboard subculture. By the mid 1980s Kaupas had discovered riding walls where he would throw his skateboard up on a wall and ride off of it. He then perfected this trick by just riding up the side of walls without using his hands. In 1984 Thrasher Magazine photographer and skating commentator Craig Stecyk took a photo of Kaupas riding off a wall. The members of Thrasher Magazine were so impressed by Kaupas the photo made the cover of the magazine in September 1984. This was odd as according to Kaupas he had never owned a copy of the magazine. With this cover photo Kaupas began to receive more magazine coverage and professional skaters took note. Also in 1984 SMA released Kaupas’s first pro-model, which featured a panther sketch drawn by Santa Monica artist Kevin Ancell. By now Kaupas was regularly skating with such notables as Mark Gonzales, Julien Stranger and Jim Thiebaud and setting the roots for what would be known as street skating. The combination of Kaupas and Gonzales would give the skateboarding a laundry list of new tricks and ideas. The first trick was transferring Rodney Mullen’skickflip from freestyle skating to street skating. Other tricks would soon follow.
This backside grab definitely made it on my wall, along with a Matt Hensley back side one foot (ollie north, depending where you were from!)
Speaking Of Matt Hensley from H-STREET, here we are in my home town, the 125th street banks!
In 1987 Santa Cruz released the skateboarding video Wheels of Fire. Kaupas played a role in the film and showed the world what he had been doing all these years in Santa Monica. He received a sudden jolt of notoriety and soon critics began questioning his first name. Natas spelled backwards is satan.
Kaupas attempted to explain that his name as being the masculine version of Lithuanian female name of Natalia. He then poked fun at the critics when he began to wear the rap group Public Enemy t-shirts. Despite his growing popularity Kaupas was not keen on being so well known and avoided crowds of fans, preferring to just skate. In 1988 Kaupas had become such a well-known figure that shoe company etnies was so impressed they offered him his own pro model shoe, an entirely new concept in the skating world. The marketing and design of the shoe was influenced by Kaupas. He was able to use his artistic talents, which he later incorporated in SMA skateboard designs as he was practically managing the company and team. At the time a skater playing such an important role in a board company was a new idea.
Jump ahead a little…
In 1991 fellow pro skater Steve Rocco, who started World Industries skateboards, approached Kaupas about starting his own line of skateboards. Kaupas left SMA and began 101 Skateboards. The company would become an outlet for Kaupas to employ his graphic and artistic talents. By 1992 101 had become a major brand and Kaupas was still actively skating, however this would change after he suffered from a broken ankle. While convalescing Kapaus explored his artistic talents more and began to use computer graphics programs. He was soon asked to assist with the first issue of the Big Brother skateboarding magazine, which was also owned by World Industries.